The Devil’s Double is one of the movies I missed at Sundance because I just couldn’t work it into my schedule. I’m glad it’s coming to the Los Angeles Film Festival, and I got a chance to screen it in advance for a preview of one of LAFF’s gala screenings.
Uday Hussein (Dominic Cooper), Saddam’s son, forces Latif (also Cooper) to be his double. Latif has to sit by while Uday relishes the violence and hedonism with which he can get away, and then pose as Uday for the more dangerous public appearances.
This is an interesting twist on the crime saga/warlord genre, told through the perspective of an outsider forced to be inside. Latif has no power to stop or even influence Uday. He’s as powerless as the subjects of Iraq.
It’s an awful world, but maybe it’s a little bit better to be inside than on the street. The film strikes a morally acceptable balance between the luxury of being a dictator’s son and the reprehensible lifestyle of those who indulge in it. It’s a pretty unstable world where you never know if you’re partying or ducking for cover.
Of course Uday gets it from his father. Director Lee Tamahori handles Uday’s most horrible acts tastefully, but still goes there. There’s a schoolgirl and a bride so you might want to cover your eyes. Uday goes all Joe Pesci on anyone who mouths off to him.
There are a few little action scenes in there. They’re intense beats in the story, believable in the world of a volatile country but also as thrilling as Tamahori’s Bond or XXX action sequences.
The doubling of Cooper is a Winklevoss Twins-worthy effect. Some scenes where they’re both in the frame, I kept wondering, “Is that just a lookalike stand in?” because it was so seamless. Whenever it’s shot/reverse shot, over the shoulder, etc. it’s seamless. And whenever the camera is on Cooper, you know exactly which one he’s playing, always.
The Devil’s Double is a solid thriller that works on its own. The true story aspect only adds a bit of context, since most of us will remember the news coverage of Desert Storm. It’s a tough film, but since that’s the deal, it’s good that it never wusses out.